June 14, 2018
If only Alexander Graham Bell could see them now: On June 12, federal Judge Richard Leon handed down a huge victory to AT&T (which began business in 1877 as Bell Telephone)—granting the telecom giant a go-ahead for its $85 billion acquisition of mass media and entertainment conglomerate Time Warner, a decision that promises to reshape the media industry.
After a six-week trial, Judge Leon—who serves as a senior U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia— ruled that the government had failed to prove its case that the deal violates antitrust law. According to a report by CNN Money, “using unusually strong language,” Leon discouraged the Justice Department from asking him to put the ruling on hold while it considers an appeal. He said such a stay would be “manifestly unjust” because it would have the effect of killing the acquisition.
In a formal statement released by AT&T, General Counsel David McAtee, commented: “We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government’s lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner. We thank the Court for its thorough and timely examination of the evidence, and we compliment our colleagues at the Department of Justice on their dedicated representation of the government. We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative.”
Following that closing, HBO, CNN, Warner Bros. and Time Warner’s other brands will change hands next week—becoming the second largest media company (valued at 282 billion) in the United States, after Amazon (which is valued at $817 billion).
During his campaign, CNN noted, President Trump had objected to the merger on the grounds that, “As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN—a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
A new poll of 1,502 registered Republican voters shows that a majority of President Trump’s supporters oppose the pending AT&T-Time Warner merger. The survey from trade group Incompas and IMGE, a GOP polling firm, shows that 60% of the president’s base said they agree with his campaign pledge to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger. That figure drops to 57% among all Republicans and to 42% among voters overall.
Research contact: @TeamIMGE